Fool's Assassin / Page 180

Page 180


I nodded at all three, in little mood for talk, but Lin immediately asked if I had authorized the burning of the brush pile in the night. And so I had to tell the tale of biting insects in my daughter’s bedding and that I had wanted it out of the house and burned immediately.

He nodded gravely and allowed that he was a man who understood dealing swiftly with such pests, but I saw the looks his sons exchanged with each other. For a short time Lin was silent, and then he asked me if I’d given leave to anyone to camp in the sheep pastures. When I told him no, he shook his head again.

“Well, it may just have been random travelers, then, and not much to worry if you were the one that set the fire. This morning, I found the top railing on one fence taken down, and the tracks of at least three horses crossing the pasture. No real harm done, and nothing taken. Looks like they left the way they came. The flocks were fine, and I didn’t even hear Daisy or the other dogs bark in the night. So perhaps they were just folk stopping for a time to rest.”

“Did they make a camp there? Out in a snowy pasture?”

He shook his head.

“I’ll walk out there later and take a look.”

He shrugged one shoulder. “Nothing to see. Just horse tracks. I already put the fence railing back up.”

I nodded, and wondered. Simple travelers or those who had hunted my messenger? I doubted they were the hunters. Folk who had killed one messenger and condemned another to a horrible death were unlikely to simply pause in a pasture on the pursuit. I would still look at the tracks, but doubted I’d find anything more than what Lin had.

Chapter Twenty

The Morning After

There is a time for an assassin to kill and disappear. There is a time for public killings, and there is a time to kill in secret. For the purposes of a lesson, a killing may be public and the body left for others to deal with. Sometimes, it is better to assassinate in private, and then display the body in a way that will shock, terrify, or admonish others. Most difficult of all, perhaps, is the assassination that must be completely concealed, not just the killing but the resulting body. The purpose of this is sometimes to create uncertainty, or to avoid blame, or to make it appear that the subject has fled or abandoned his duties.

Thus it becomes clear that simply training your assassin to kill efficiently is not enough. One must instill judgment, discipline, and self-effacement to create a useful tool.

Singal’s Lessons in Murder, translated from the Chalcedean

I woke to gray light coming in the windows. I was on the couch where my mother had birthed me, wrapped in a blanket. On my father’s regular chair near the fire, a blanket was neatly folded. I could tell that the fire had recently been fed. I lay still, thinking of all the ways my life had changed in one day. Shun had arrived. And the pale messenger. My father had seen me as useful, and even intelligent as I helped him bring her in. He’d trusted me to follow his instructions. And then Shun had distracted him with her silly complaints, and we’d lost our chance with the messenger. When we had concealed her death, I had been shocked. But I’d also felt that he valued me. But the moment Shun was frightened, he had left my side and forgotten me completely as he ran off to see to her hysterics.

I threw my blanket off me and onto the floor and glared at my father’s empty chair as I sat up. Everyone wanted him to take care of someone else besides me. Take care of Shun and protect her; the pale girl wanted him to go off and look for a lost son. Was anyone telling him to pay attention to his own daughter because otherwise there was no one else in the world who would watch over her? No.

Except maybe Nettle. And she thought I was an idiot. Well, perhaps not an idiot and perhaps that was my own fault for never letting her share my thoughts, but it still didn’t bode well for my future if I went to live with her. Or would Riddle go back to Buckkeep and tell her I wasn’t as feeble-minded as she thought? If Riddle went back to Buckkeep Castle. He seemed very intent on protecting Shun, too. And Shun seemed very eager to keep him by her side. I scowled at that thought. I was not sure why, but I was certain that Riddle was the property of my older sister. In that moment Shun became not only the outsider but the enemy.

And my absent father was little better.

Swiftly I constructed my resentment and believed in it. Silently seething with anger at all of them, I returned to my bedchamber. I was not pleased to find it full of folk scrubbing the walls and floors. The smell of vinegar was strong. All bedding had vanished from the servant’s bed frame, and when I threaded my small way among the unfamiliar servants, I found that most of my clothing chest had been emptied as well. I was pleased at the idea that my things would be returned washed and fresh, and less pleased that so little was left for me to choose from. Nor did I like how the four newly hired woman and the beefy man helping them with the heavier lifting paused in their cleaning tasks to stare at me. They were the intruders here, not I!

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